Efforts underway to free entangled whale near Unalaska

Federal officials say they are working to free a humpback whale caught in fishing gear off Unalaska this week.

The adult whale was first reported to be tangled on Monday afternoon in Iliuliuk Bay, said Julie Fair, a spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries in Alaska. The bay is situated between Unalaska and Dutch Harbor.

Fair described the whale as “hogtied,” with a line running through its mouth and tangled in its tail. It wasn’t immediately clear exactly what type of fishing gear the animal was tangled in, she said.

The whale on Thursday was able to surface and breathe and appeared to be in good condition other than being entangled, Fair said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game captured underwater footage of the whale on Tuesday afternoon, she said. Two whale entanglement experts flew into Dutch Harbor on Thursday morning from Juneau and Hawaii to plan how to help the whale, Fair said.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration experts use special tools to disentangle the whales and approach them cautiously because the animals are stressed and can be unpredictable, Fair said.

The experts were surveying the situation on Thursday and had a weather window through Saturday to get the animal untangled, Fair said.


This is the first whale that’s been tangled in Alaska so far this year, but about 10 to 20 whales typically become entangled each year, Fair said.

NOAA is asking the public to stay at least 100 yards away from the whale because it is likely stressed, so it may be dangerous, she said.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.